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26 Feb 2003 : Column 302—continued

2.50 pm

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): I am sure that the article by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) was excellent. I hope that he was suitably paid—perhaps there will be another commission shortly.

The Chamber is a marvellous place, and is at its best in a debate such as this one. I listened to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), whom I proudly supported when he stood for the leadership of my party. I also listened to the Foreign Secretary. Strange to say, I find myself in great disagreement with my right hon. and learned Friend, but in total agreement with what the Foreign Secretary said today and what the Prime Minister said yesterday. This is the second debate on Iraq that I have listened to in two days. Yesterday, I sat in Church house, Westminster as a member of the General Synod of the Church of England and listened to a debate on Iraq.

Mr. Salmond: The hon. Gentleman would have been well duffed up in that debate.

Sir Patrick Cormack: The hon. Gentleman is using unparliamentary language about being duffed up. In fact, in a debate in which I did not take part, I listened to a series of speeches from good, well-intentioned men and women who, for the most part, were misguided and did not understand the realities of what they were talking about.

Mr. Salmond: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Patrick Cormack: No, I will not.

I listened in particular to three Church of England bishops who effectively paraphrased the words of St. Augustine—"Make us tough, but not yet." All of them underlined the appalling nature of the despicable regime in Iraq, but were not prepared to face up to the consequences, which the Prime Minister, as a national leader, has had the courage and calmness to do. I make no apology to any Opposition Member or anyone in the House for saying that I believe that the Prime Minister

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has behaved in an exemplary fashion since 11 September in the field of foreign affairs. I cannot say the same for him in other fields.

Bob Spink (Castle Point): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Sir Patrick Cormack: No, I will not.

The Prime Minister has given a lead, although that has not been easy for him. We must all accept that his party has an honourable tradition of pacifism, so it cannot have been easy for him to make certain speeches before certain audiences. I remind Government Members who disagree with him that he has made one fundamental mistake in his six years in Downing street. He has relied too much on spin, which has undermined his credibility and made people less trusting of him. I believe that that is one factor in the unease of the nation as a whole. However, I wish to tell Government Members and people outside the House that in this particular area the Prime Minister has behaved with probity and great courage. He deserves support as a national leader of considerable renown.

Jeremy Corbyn : I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's praise for the Prime Minister's role in the issue since 11 September 2001. With all the effectiveness of Government machinery, spin doctors and publicity, why is there still a huge majority in the opinion polls against going to war? Why did the biggest ever demonstration in British history take place on 15 February, when a lot of ordinary people who had never been on a demonstration before marched through the streets of London because they do not believe that there would be a just war?

Sir Patrick Cormack: I have seen people march before on Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament demonstrations, including the Prime Minister in the past—[Interruption.] Perhaps not a million people, but the numbers approached that. The hon. Gentleman spoke about spin. I said that, paradoxically, that has helped to destroy the Prime Minister's credibility, which I greatly regret.

Mr. Marshall-Andrews rose—

Sir Patrick Cormack: I have limited time at my disposal, so I will not give way again.

I wish to say two things in particular. Yesterday, in the exchanges after the Prime Minister's admirable statement, I put it to him—the Foreign Secretary made this point this afternoon—that if we allow the international community to be set at naught by a tyrant whose evil, if not without parallel, has not been exceeded in the past half century or more, the United Nations will go the way of the League of Nations. At stake—this was implicit in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Portillo)—is the credibility of the international order in standing up uncompromisingly to evil. Like everyone else, I hope that we will not have a war, but action against Saddam Hussein will be wholly justified if he continues to flout the will of the international community.

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In that context, let us remember that the weapons inspectors are not employed as weapons discoverers. They are there to inspect what Saddam Hussein declares. He has repeatedly made false declarations, and the evidence is before us. The Command Paper that the Government provided for every Member as background reading for this debate makes it plain that time after time this man has thumbed his nose at the international community and has wrought terrible havoc on his own people. I urge Liberal Members to go to the National Liberal Club and look at the portrait of Mr. Gladstone. They should remember those amazing speeches that he made during the Bulgarian atrocities in which he talked about clearing out the Turks

If anybody has desolated and profaned the province over which he rules it is Saddam Hussein.

We are now at a critical juncture in the history of this new century. If we allow this evil tyrant to get away with it, we will advance into the century with no credible international organisations and with our own credibility, and therefore the defence of our very people, at risk. I urge the House to reject the well-meaning amendment tabled by the right hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) and support the Government without any equivocation in the Lobby tonight.

2.58 pm

Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South): The approach to war is dangerous for combatants and non-combatants, and poses enormous problems for ordinary Members of Parliament. We are buffeted by pressure and arguments on all sides but, at the end of the day, we are impelled to make a rational decision. I have looked at the resolution, and shall vote on it, and not one that may be made in future. There is nothing exceptional about that—I do not feel prejudiced, nor is my conscience undermined by decision to go into the Lobby with the Government and the official Opposition.

I have long believed that the US and the UK should go down the Security Council route. I have unequivocally supported all those who supported 1441, and I have strongly supported, at the United States Congress, as has the Defence Committee, a further resolution—not that it is necessary legally, but it is certainly necessary politically to gain endorsement and justification from a larger number of individuals and nations than have hitherto given support. The Defence Committee went to Washington and New York a couple of weeks ago. We met the Senate Armed Services Committee and senior people from the National Security Council, the Department of Defense and the State Department. There was hardly anybody whom we met, bar the commissionaire in the Watergate hotel, whom we did not press strongly for a second resolution. I am delighted that efforts are being made to achieve that.

Is Saddam co-operating fully with 1441 and the other 16 or 17 resolutions? Of course he is not. Dr. Blix and others have said that he is co-operating reluctantly with the process, but he is not co-operating in substance. It has been said endlessly, and I repeat, that UNMOVIC's role is not to search down holes or in caves but to verify

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whether Saddam Hussein has been compliant. Dr. Blix said that in his speech to the United Nations; and the Defence Committee was privileged to listen to him privately for one hour and five minutes the day before he made his presentation and, I am sure, before he had written it.

During his formal presentation, Dr. Blix said:

He continued:

So the inspectors are seeking assurances, which up to now have not been provided.

The example of the al-Samoud missile is well worth considering. There are three variations of it, two in existence and one on a drawing board. It is obvious from what Dr. Blix has seen that Iraq is in material breach in relation to the missile, which in 13 out of the 40 tests has shown that it is capable of flying farther than the distance laid down for it by the United Nations.

If one considers each of the flagrant breaches, the obfuscations, the untruths and all the evidence that has been provided, one reaches the inescapable conclusion that Saddam Hussein has hidden, is hiding and is not compliant. One asks how much longer should one search. Yes, weeks more—there must be flexibility—but if anyone argues that Dr. Blix should be given 10 or 12 months to complete the job, I am afraid they are barking.

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